Wednesday, 17 November 2010
On Monday morning my grandmother passed away.
It is hard to know what to say. She was 97 years old, with a heart stronger than mine I suspect. Over the last few years dementia took an increasing hold, frustrating her and those around her. Her death was a release, but remains a profound loss.
For she was a joy to know. The picture of her as a baby, hung on the wall in her room, portends a handful of trouble: not difficulty, but mischief. Even then there is a glint in her eyes, as if she's saying, "I know: I look like any other baby, but I'm not. I'm me, and I'm going to let you know it."
Of course, I only drift into her hourglass at about twenty to the hour. But she was always special. She cooked the most amazing meals. She made many of our clothes, including the joys of my childhood dressing-up box with its bridal headdresses and flowing cloaks. She taught me how to sew and how to use a sewing machine. She had housemartins in the eaves that we would make lardy birdcakes for.
She was the contact point with my cousins - distant in location, but the most idolised relations we had. The summers were spent in the garden, playing silly games and chewing the grass. And when my grandparents moved into a granny-flat with my uncle and aunt living above, there was a new lease of life. Aged 71 she retrieved the tennis racket she was given for her 21st birthday and played against anyone willing to try. Given that she'd had a hip replaced about 15 years before it was quite remarkable to watch.
She was the reason we all spoke well in public. She had been trained as an elocution teacher, and woe betide any of us standing up in a school play and not being heard. Every consonant placed, no dipping in volume, head up, shoulders back: she's always (in my mind) sat in the back row ensuring I keep the speech on track.
And then Grandpa died, and we worried about how she would carry on. But fifteen years later she has seen three of her grandchildren married, and six great-grandchildren arrive and has outlived all the others of her own generation. Aged 84 she made my wedding dress. Aged 92 she had games and jigsaws out for my children to play with when we visited.
When I last saw her, just over a week before she died, she was frail and sleepy. I don't think she knew who I was, but she was adamant that she knew both her children (my mother and uncle). And she spoke of her faith, faith that I know I have inherited via my mother. She was in some level of communication with her God, repeating Amen in a comforted fashion. And, in a moment of clarity, she said, "If everyone loved God as much as He loves us, the world would be a happy place."
As I kissed her goodbye she thanked me and said, "You will remember me, won't you?"
Yes, Gran. I will.